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Racial Equity & Social Justice Initiative

Parks Racial Equity Change Team

Madison Parks plays a vital role in the City of Madison’s Racial Equity & Social Justice Initiative (RESJI). The RESJI’s mission is to establish racial equity and social justice as a core principle in all decisions, policies, and functions of the City of Madison. The City of Madison leads with race as we know that race dictates outcomes and recognizes that racial inequities have been created and perpetuated into government and that racial inequities across all indicators for success are deep and pervasive.

African Americans, Latinos, and people living in low-income urban areas across the United States have disproportionately been denied the health, social, and environmental benefits of vital public spaces—inequities born from historical and current-day policies, systems, and norms. These inequities are the product of policies and practices like residential segregation, redlining, racially biased planning decisions, and exclusionary zoning, as well as problematic narratives and ways of working in the green space field that has often excluded or tokenized Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities.

The history of park usage and access locally and nationwide has not been equitable. For example, communities of color faced segregation through "separate but equal" and Jim Crow policies, where white communities would see more investment in parks and infrastructure than African American communities. While Parks serve as the heartbeat of a community and a public gathering place for all ethnic backgrounds, conflict over differences are common in park and open spaces that often end in violence against BIPOC communities.

In 2018, Madison Parks launched the Parks Racial Equity Change Team (PRECT) to advance the City’s REJI. The PRECT’s mission is to ensure that race will not limit access for BIPOC communities to our parks, natural resources, and recreation opportunities by design or service. The PRECT’s work centers on the Parks Racial Equity Action Plan (REAP). This internal working document guides the organization’s racial equity priorities and serves as the heartbeat of the racial equity work for Madison Parks. The Racial Equity Action Plan is a lens that establishes priorities, timelines, accountability, and performance measures. Madison Parks has four goals to guide its racial equity work. These goals support the ongoing internal transformational change to ensure a continued high level of service to the evolving community and staff of Madison Parks Division.

Action Plan Goals
  • Improving health outcomes and connection to the Parks system
  • Strengthening outreach and public participation from BIPOC communities
  • Creating a racially diverse and inclusive workforce
  • Ongoing training to improve understanding of racial equity concepts and tools

In response to the murder of George Floyd, 180+ days of demonstrations downtown Madison, and escalating tensions, the PRECT created the Morning Café. The Morning Café is a safe space for staff to learn about race and equity challenges in our community and across the country to increase their understanding of the topic covered. We accomplish this by learning from those on the front lines of dismantling institutional racism and most impacted by systems of power. The monthly training is an example of an outcome from the REAP to normalize the conversation about race, provide continuous learning opportunities, and build organizational capacity to advance equity in Parks.

In 2021, 19 equity team members planned, coordinated and hosted 10 unique Morning Café sessions, creating 304 hours of enrichment and connecting staff with local, regional, and national equity leaders to advance Park equity. 95% of the Morning Café participants stated the training was beneficial and increased their knowledge of the subject covered.

Learn more about the City's Racial Equity & Social Justice Initiative.